Cher Public

Empire records

One can only imagine the frenzy that would have occurred in the late 1950s had one of the leading opera composers of the day (Britten? Poulenc? Menotti?) written an opera for Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi—with Franco Corelli as their leading man. That’s what it must have been like in 1726 London when Handel composed Alessandro for perhaps the three most famous (and expensive) singers of the day. Despite its initial runaway success, today it remains one of Handel’s least performed works; however, that may be changing with the release of not one, but two new recordings.

Established by a collective of the British aristocracy to assure a steady stream of Italian opera in London, the Royal Academy of Music opened in 1720 with Giovanni Porta’s Numitore quickly followed by Radamisto by Handel. His trio of masterpieces (written in less than year)–Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda— premiered there, their casts headed by the great castrato Senesino and reigning soprano Francesca Cuzzoni.

Ever a pragmatic businessman, Handel soon realized he needed a new sensation to keep interest in the Academy high, so he invited Faustina Bordoni to join his ensemble. That both Cuzzoni and Faustina (as they were popularly known) would regularly be sharing the stage with Senesino created the necessary resurgence of public interest. The two sopranos soon became known as The Rival Queens, a pithy encomium probably derived from their first London appearances together in Alessandro and from Nathaniel Lee’s 1677 verse drama The Rival Queens, or the Death of Alexander the Great.

The excitement created by Faustina’s debut soon led to two ferocious cliques, each fiercely committed to its diva. In a letter at the time, Lord Harvey observed that “in short, the whole world is gone mad upon this dispute. No Cuzzonist will go to a tavern with a Faustinian; and the ladies of one party have scratched those of the other out of their list of visits.” The conflict boiled over at the 6 June 1727 Academy performance of Bononcini’s Astianatte when the opposing factions broke out in “Hissing on one Side, and Clapping on the other” and gave rise to “Catcalls, and other great indecencies.”

Despite the urban legend that the two sopranos themselves came to blows, no evidence has been found to corroborate that claim. However, the near-riot led to the cancelation of the remainder of the season and precipitated the demise of the Academy, a collapse no doubt furthered by the concurrent success of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera which not coincidentally included a scene parodying Handel’s warring prima donnas.

Most commentators offer that the five operas Handel wrote for The Rival QueensAlessandro, Admeto, Riccardo Primo, Siroe and Tolomeo–are among his weakest. Forced to create two leading female roles of equal prominence no doubt impaired the composer and his librettists. However, all five contain fine music, although only Admeto provides a fully satisfactory music drama. Yet Alessandro became a remarkable popular success and was, after Rinaldo, Handel’s most performed operatic work in his lifetime.

Paolo Lolli’s libretto was an adaptation of La superbia d’Alessandro set by Agostino Steffani in 1690 (excerpts of which appear on Cecilia Bartoli’s most recent CD Mission).

Any resemblance to the real Alexander the Great is purely accidental although both Rossane and Clito are also historical figures. Alexander would have been well known as a great hero to most 18th century audiences, but Handel’s work paints him instead mostly as a lover (and a pretty ineffectual one at that). Although there is a subplot involving an attempted coup, so much attention is paid to the two ladies vying for the Emperor’s affections that one is almost surprised when anyone else gets to sing an aria. In fact, of the score’s 36 arias, accompanied recitatives and duets, a full 30 are sung by the leading trio, with the remaining six shared by the other four characters!

Although an opera seria, Alessandro runs closer to comedy about a love triangle in which each character’s true feelings remain oddly opaque. Although in love with Rossane, Alessandro toys with Lisaura’s affections—partially for political reasons but also because he likes to play love games. He eventually ends up with Rossane, while Lisaura remains alone, refusing the attentions of King Tassile who has been patiently waiting on the sidelines all along.

As far as I know, Alessandro has been done just twice in the US at the Kennedy Center and at Carnegie Hall during the Handel tricentenary in 1985, conducted by the important American Handel pioneer Stephen Simon (who died on 20 January) featuring a hard-working Ashley Putnam and Gianna Rolandi fighting over the musically muddled Alessandro of Janis Taylor. My best recollection of the Carnegie performance is a stylish René Jacobs in one of few US appearances commanding the smaller role of Tassile and easily walking off with the show.

Until now anyone who wanted to listen to Alessandro went to Sigiswald Kuijken’s 1984 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording (recently been reissued in a bargain edition by Sony).

Despite its vintage, it remains a fine rendition, including one of Jacobs’s best performances from his first career as a countertenor this time in the title role. Jacobs was always a frustrating singer: his obvious musical intelligence often compromised by an unhealthy helping of swooping and scooping. Unlike his excessively droopy Arsace in Kuijken’s otherwise delicious recording of Partenope, he’s mostly on his best behavior (trills!) as Alessandro.

Isabelle Poulenard and Sophie Boulin, his Lisaura and Rossane, are both best known for their work in French baroque music, yet each shines despite the intense demands of the Cuzzoni-Faustina roles. The others are capable, but the joy throughout is Kuijken’s La Petite Bande, long one of the best period-instrument orchestras.

The of the pair of new Alessandro recordings arrived from Pan Classics, a combination of several live performances from a staging at last year’s Händel-Festspiele Karlsruhe, one of three important Handel festivals in Germany–the others, Halle and Göttingen. Despite a promising cast of experienced Handel singers, it unfortunately proves to be a necessary purchase only for a Handel-completist.

American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo, whose work I have enjoyed for a number of years takes the title role. Since being dropped a while back by René Jacobs as his countertenor-of-choice in favor of Bejun Mehta, Zazzo has mostly been singing lots of performances of Giulio Cesare including last fall’s altogether mediocre production at the English National Opera and the Pelly version with Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra at the Palais Garnier, in which he’s fine.

Alessandro, another Senesino role, finds him in uncharacteristically insecure form. Despite the omission of two of his eight arias, Zazzo is so clearly overtaxed by the demands of his remaining music that he occasionally simplifies the notes just to make it through. I suspect that he might have made a better showing in a studio. Although cutting two of Alessandro’s arias may have made sense in easing Zazzo’s burden in a live performance, dropping the two duets with each of his paramours was really shocking and ruins Handel’s wonderful act three finale.

His two sopranos are also far from ideal. Yetzabel Arias Fernández, a great favorite of harpsichordist-conductor Fabio Bonizzoni who features her on many recordings by his group La Risonanza on Glossa, has never been a favorite of mine. Her typically pale, straight-toned singing fails to bring the mischievous Rossane to life. She negotiates the demanding music competently but without the flair necessary to bring its fireworks to life. A ten minute alternate aria is explicably interpolated for her in the final act where it just holds up the action.

As in her recent recording of Vivaldi’s Teuzzone, Rafaella Milanesi again appears at less than her best. I’ve been a fan of Milanesi since I heard her in a concert with Christophe Rousset and his Les Talens Lyriques in Paris nearly ten years ago, but her strangely charmless Lisaura proves breathy and strained and sadly not up to the fine work she’s done in the past.

As King Tassile, Argentinian countertenor Martin Oro achieves nothing particularly memorable with his plangent pair of arias.

The greatest pleasure flows from the accomplished playing of the Deutsche Händel-Solisten under conductor Michael Form, a name I was not familiar with before but one I would be pleased to encounter again.

Happily the new Decca Alessandro proves altogether splendid, the finest Handel opera recording since Alessandro Severo.

Not surprisingly, both Alessandros feature George Petrou leading his superb Armonia Atenea, a very fine orchestra which seemed to spring from nowhere just a few years ago. An extraordinarily fine series of recordings on MDG announced Petrou as one of best Handel conductors to emerge in years. His vibrant readings avoid the blandness of many recent English performances without toppling over into the excesses of some Continental interpretations.

Alessandro also provides yet another triumph for countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic who has attained a remarkable triple crown after his recordings of Vivaldi’s Il Farnace and Vinci’s Artaserse. Although he’s recorded the title role in Faramondo, Cencic suggests that this is his first major Handel role; odd since I heard him as a rather wonderful Teseo in Paris in 2011, and there’s a fine broadcast of Rinaldo from Lausanne.

And Alessandro is a long role—eight da capo arias as well as accompagnatos, duets and coros. One is now even more eager to hear Cencic try out other Senesino roles as the tessitura suits him perfectly. Often, he sings roles too high for him where the top notes can become pretty screamy, although he makes it work for him as a virago of a Mandane in Vinci’s Artaserse or as a high-strung Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea (although the latter proved quite beautiful too).

But Alessandro fits him perfectly and this must be his most successful complete opera CD so far. Unlike Zazzo, he isn’t fazed by the role’s fierce technical demands, and the florid writing is effortlessly handled. He suavely presents a besotted Emperor enthralled (if sometimes baffled) by his complicated amorous entanglements.

Petrou’s two ladies marvelously mirror the contrast of the original cast: Karina Gauvin, the veteran Handel diva whose many recordings have all but crowned her as a queen of this repertoire, sings Lisaura, the veteran Cuzzoni’s part; while the prodigious young Julia Lezhneva bursts onto the scene with her first complete Handel role, Rossane, the first role written for his new prima donna Faustina.

By now Gauvin has nothing to prove; her command of the style is sure. Like Cuzzoni, although a fine singer of florid music, her true forte is music of intense pathos.

Lezhneva has clearly improved since her immature debut Rossini CD, although some of the singing still can be oddly bland. Her extraordinarily fine coloratura can seem almost impudently effortless (one might like to hear her “sweat” it a bit more), but anything remotely high turns small and pinched. However, it would appear that the “competition” from Gauvin and Cencic has challenged her to offer here a much more than promising portrayal. Observing Lezhneva’s progress (she’s just 23!) may prove fascinating.

As Tassile, Xavier Sabata nearly steals the show from his showier colleagues. His two arias, touching (if unsuccessful) pleas for Lisaura’s attention, again prove he’s one of the most interesting countertenors around today. As Leonato, Clito and Cleone, tenor Juan Sancho, bass In-Sung Sim and another fine new Russian countertenor, Vasily Khoroshev. have far less to do but handily contribute to this really fine resurrection of rare gem.

Since his tremendously appealing appearance in Alessandro will likely leave many listeners wanting more, it’s exciting to discover Sabata’s new all-Handel recital Bad Guys just out Aparté. Only the mp3 upload version is currently available in the US, but the CD will be released here shortly.

After an uneven Handel cantata CD, Sabata here proves his mettle with a fascinating program devoted to the the villains of Handel operas whose strikingly varied music is rarely anthologized. Most countertenors (and mezzos, for that matter) are desperate to record “Ombra mai fu” or “Scherza infida,” but the arias from Tamerlano, Teseo, Amadigi, Giulio Cesare, Ariodante, and Ottone are almost impossible to find outside of complete recordings.

The potentially troubling thing about the program is that Sabata actually has a lovely, appealing sound—one that radiates sympathy and pathos—rather than the spiky, snarling rasp common to a few too many countertenors. While this makes him an ideal Ottone in Agrippina, it might suggest he’s an unlikely candidate to incarnate these villains; however, his fierce dramatic commitment and intriguing musical imagination reveal the many devious, occasionally sympathetic facets of his characters.

Surprisingly, the highlights of the CD—arias for Polinesso (Ariodante) and Dardano (Amadigi)—were written for female contraltos, rather than castrati who premiered the other four roles. Dardano’s “Pena tiranna,” one of Handel’s greatest arias, is a particular delight. This CD also heralds the first operatic CD release featuring Il Pomo d’Oro conducted by its director Riccardo Minasi; they are an exciting addition to the ranks of original instrument orchestras, and one looks forward to their upcoming releases particularly Cencic’s latest, Venezia on Virgin Classics.

Although the bass doesn’t get much to do in Alessandro, Handel wrote many magnificent parts for this voice, and two fine new CDs have just been released exploring this repertoire. Christopher Purves, who recently shone as Walt Disney in the world premiere in Madrid of Philip Glass’s The Real American, collaborates with Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo on Hyperion’s Handel’s finest arias for Base Voice,” a wide-ranging collection of selections from 15 operas, masques and oratorios.

More a baritone than a bass, Purves sings a wide range of roles from Falstaff to Wozzeck, but Handel has long played an important part of his repertoire, and he displays an impressive versatility including commendable agility in a demanding program. The arias arrive in no particular order on the CD, but they do seem to have been arranged from worst to best. The opening Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto from Rinaldo sounds gritty, the coloratura labored, and the aria from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo is less fluent than in a recent live concert with Emanuelle Haïm.

However, things improve dramatically and he shines in flashy pieces from Orlando, Riccardo Primo and Muzio Scevola (a rare work much in need of a new recording). Purves is particularly moving in the touching concluding aria from the cantata Apollo e Dafne, while vigorous excerpts from Theodora and Belshazzar show a long experience with the English oratorio tradition. Cohen and Arcangelo are steadily improving, although I’m not sure their prominence on so many recent recital recordings is really earned yet.

Young Czech baritone Adam Plachetka has been a member of the Vienna Staatsoper for the past few years rising to leading roles, including Harlekin and Publio in the recent new productions of Ariadne auf Naxos and La Clemenza di Tito, as well as Melisso in their awkwardly miscast Alcina.

In addition to his Viennese appearances, Plachetka has been part of a burgeoning Eastern European early-music scene appearing in productions of Acis and Galatea

and Rinaldo.

In order to show off this rising star, Supraphon has just released Oratorio Arias, music from four Handel works in English: Messiah, Judas Maccabaeus, Alexander’s Feast, and Acis and Galatea, although the latter two don’t really qualify as oratorios. Happily only two arias overlap with the Purves CD.

Vibrantly accompanied by the Czech Ensemble Baroque Orchestra and Choir conducted by Roman Válek, Plachetka reveals a virile baritone that attacks his music with aplomb if not always the ultimate in refinement, particularly in florid music which turns effortful and over-aspirated. However, he’s impressive in the nearly half an hour of excerpts from Judas, including several choruses in addition to his arias for Simon. This CD is a promising solo debut recording, but I suspect Plachetka’s future will lie more in music written later than Handel’s.

The Petrou Alessandro and Sabata’s Bad Guys stand out as essential listening for this Handel month—the Saxon master was born 23 February 1685 in Halle, just three weeks before the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach 200 kilometers away in Eisenach. The American Handel Society Festival and Conference takes place in Princeton from 21-24 February, and on its final day New York City’s most prominent celebratory event takes place at Carnegie Hall: The English Concert’s Radamisto with Harry Bicket conducting David Daniels, Luca Pisaroni, Patricia Bardon, Brenda Rae and Joélle Harvey.

  • Camille

    Didn’t Samuel Barber write Vanessa with Callas in mind?

    I so enjoy Sigr. DeCaffarrelli’s reviews that I wish that this musick meant more to me than it does. Persevere. The Misses Gauvin and Lezhneva are certainly worth a listen, no matter what music one prefers.

    Thank you very much, sir, as always. A real pleasure and an education, to boot.

  • armerjacquino

    Isabelle Poulenard! There’s a name from my past. I bought the Jacobs recording of Alessandro as a kid and have been more or less obsessed with the way she sings ‘Che Tirannia d’Amor’ ever since. She also recorded Gluck’s Le Cinesi around the same time, which she sang stunningly, and which I can’t listen to any more because I only have it on cassette :-(

    • armerjacquino

      Here she is on that ALESSANDRO. Good, huh?

      • Here she is on that ALESSANDRO. Good, huh?

        For canary fanciers, yes.

        • armerjacquino

          That reminds me. Can any parterrians help? I always thought that Thursday came after Wednesday, but recently I’ve heard that might not be the case. Is there anyone who can give me a definitive answer on the days of the week?

          • louannd

            Days, months, and years were given to us by nature, but we invented the week for ourselves. There is nothing inevitable about a seven-day cycle, or about any other kind of week; it represents an arbitrary rhythm imposed on our activities, unrelated to anything in the natural order. But where the week exists—and there have been many cultures where it doesn’t—it is so deeply embedded in our experience that we hardly ever question its rightness, or think of it as an artificial convention; for most of us it is a matter of ‘second nature.’

            The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week
            Eviatar Zerubavel (Author)

            Will this help you Amerj?

          • louannd

            I really blew the block quote, my apologies. I am truly sorry. I never intended to offend anyone.

          • armerjacquino

            But louannd- is that fundamentally true?

          • Batty Masetto

            Only on Thursdays. Unless the Thursday happens to be a Wednesday.

          • Oh, don’t say so, louannd: the recursive block quote is fascinating. Reminds me of this, actually.

          • Sorry AJ, there is nothing special about that music from Alessandro.

            Here is some fine opera: a couple excerpts from The Love for Three Oranges (audio quality so-so)

            The ideal would be to get the Gergiev recording on Phillips and listening at home with surround sound.

          • Camille

            “Arrestati, sei bello!”

          • ianw2

            A Prokofiev farce?

            What happened to The Sometimes Laughs So Hard He Pees A Little Golaud I knew, when we were hard on our luck teens in America’s guano radiation county Fookawanna, Tennessee, who talked me into gettin’ on that Greyhound and heading to the big city, New York with only some battered nickels and a dream between us?

            What happened to the guy who got off that Greyhound and told me “gosh tootin’ darnit, we’re gonna become the best damn hustlers in this whole goddamn Port Authority?”

            You would’ve done it too, you sonofabitch, if only you hadn’t fallen into the Prokofarces. If only you could’ve seen me weep as you huddled into your Peter and the Wolf. You could’ve done it. Another American Dream dies.

          • Batty Masetto

            I was fundamentally hypnotized by La Cieca’s post until I read the next post and discovered my fundament was hypnotized.

          • manou
          • armerjacquino

            I already have the Gergiev LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES. And the Nagano, actually. Sometimes I even listen to them when I can tear myself away from looped recordings of Joan Sutherland’s trill.

            Seriously, all this ‘canary-fancier’ crap because I posted an aria from ALESSANDRO in a thread about, uh, ALESSANDRO? I mean, I could have said ‘Cut the Handel crap, deCaffarelli, and check out this Ynoild’ but it might have been a little rude and irrelevant.

            Please don’t presume to comment on my relationship with opera, because you know the square-root of fuck-all about it. If only we could say the same about yours.

      • Evenhanded


        Fabulous, Armer. Thank you for sharing -- I had never heard this recording, but have been a Poulenard fan for many years. Wonderful music and gorgeous singing.

        There was an extra dimension of excitement with “Early Music” recordings back when this set was made. There was the thrill of hearing music new to the ears, of course, but it was always special to discover a performance (like this one) that breathes and lives with intensity and earnest, well-schooled singing free of trickery and superficial effects. I shall now seek out the complete recording.

        And a sincere THANK YOU to DeCaffarrelli for another stupendous review. You are a treasure. Please keep sharing!

      • The_Kid

        Pretty darn nice! However, I remember an unlikely suspect every time I hear Handel’s Alessandro mentioned! I suspect the Vicar loves her, too! :)

    • Hippolyte

      The Cinesi with Poulenard has been issued on CD in at least 2 different editions--both out of print now. I think you’re in the UK and Amazon UK has copies but they’re pricey. US Amazon has copies beginning around $7 or so--a much better deal (even with overseas shipping).

      My favorite Poulenard CD is a collection of music by Lully for comedies by Moliere, conducted by Marc Minkowski on Erato--absolutely marvelous!

      • armerjacquino

        Oh, thank you so much for this! I shall investigate.

  • melziameneghini

    I was at the Kennedy Center performance, and it still remains one of the great concert experiences of my then young life, along with Jessye Norman’s performance of the 4 last songs with the National Symphony Orchestra. As I remember it, Putnam scored a major triumph with the Faustina arias. Gianna Roland was also wonderful, but it was Putnam’s evening.

  • No Expert

    They don’t make ‘canaries’ like this nowadays.


  • Ian,

    A Prokofiev farce? What happened to The Sometimes Laughs So Hard He Pees A Little Golaud I knew

    FYI, I went gaga over Oranges, The Fiery Angel, The Gambler, WAY BEFORE I discovered P&M….. Prokofiev is one of my old standbys.

  • Folks, I still think a periodic public service announcement on canary fanciers is a good idea… Lol.

    ”Canary fanciers is a name describing the kind of opera fan who listens primarily for the thrill of hearing great singers show off their voices and loves opera for the sheer beauty of sound produced by famous voices. [….] Opera to them is more like listening to a trained canary sing”

      • louannd


        • louannd

          Sorry. I meant to say xaxaxaxaxa.

          I apologize sincerely for any offense anyone may have taken to my laughter. Sincerely. Adamantly.

  • The_Kid

    It is a pity, however, that there is no designated term for irritating sad sacks who denigrate the vocal prowess of great singers only to feed their OCDs in solitary confinement, score in hand, and then ram their ‘pearls of wisdom’ down the unsuspecting throats of innocent bystanders, forcing them to use the scroll bar more frequently.

    • Kid,

      It is a pity, however, that there is no designated term for irritating sad sacks who denigrate the vocal prowess of great singers only to feed their OCDs in solitary confinement, score in hand, and then ram their ‘pearls of wisdom’ down the unsuspecting throats of innocent bystanders, forcing them to use the scroll bar more frequently.

      Nowhere in this thread have I ‘denigrated’ any vocalist. It was more a general comment about the amount of attention given to individual singers here. (But yes I do think that aria from AJ’s Alessandro clip was mediocre)

    • It is a pity, however, that there is no designated term for irritating sad sacks who denigrate the vocal prowess of great singers only to feed their OCDs in solitary confinement, score in hand, and then ram their ‘pearls of wisdom’ down the unsuspecting throats of innocent bystanders, forcing them to use the scroll bar more frequently.


  • Camille


    Hope it pastes 4 U!!

  • Howling in Tune

    There was a complete concert performance of Alessandro, starring Julianne Baird, Christine Brandes and Drew Minter, at Merkin Hall in NYC in late October of 1991.

    I know not everyone here likes those singers, but I thought the entire evening was wonderful. (Baird’s “Alla sua gabbia d’oro” knocked us all out.)

    As for the quality of the opera itself, I’ve always thought it a dopey drama with lots of gorgeous arias, even by Handel’s standards.

    • DeCaffarrelli

      Many thanks to HiT for pointing out this performance--it’s doubly embarrassing since I WAS THERE!

      Concert Royal conducted by James Richman did so many valuable concerts in NYC in the 80s and 90s, particularly French baroque, but this Handel opera was atypical for them and rather wonderful. Baird and Brandes were superb and it was quite the best thing I ever heard live or on recording from Drew Minter, whom I generally loathe.

      I’ve been told that a pirate recording of this performance exists but I’ve never been able to lay my hands on it. A friend has also been searching for the Putnam-Rolandi performance too, without success.

      Again, thanks to HiT for brushing away the cobwebs.

  • Xavier Sabata, in all his bearish magnifisence. I would marry that man in a heartbeat.

  • Nerva Nelli

    Original premise:

    “One can only imagine the frenzy that would have occurred in the late 1950s had one of the leading opera composers of the day (Britten? Poulenc? Menotti?) written an opera for Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi—with Franco Corelli as their leading man”

    LA NOTTE DELLE IGUANE (Renzo Rossellini)
    La Scala Milan, 1956

    Renata Tebaldi Hannah Jelkes
    Maria Callas Maxine Faulk
    Franco Corelli The Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon
    Graziella Sciutti Charlotte Goodall
    Elena Nicolai Miss Judith Fellowes
    Ilona Steingruber Frau Fahrenkopf
    Otto Wiener Herr Fahrenkopf
    Paolo Washington Hank
    Leonard del Ferro Pedro
    Renzo Ercolani Pancho
    Hughes Cuenod Nonno (Jonathan Coffin)
    Ilse Hollweg Hilda
    Nicola Zaccaria Jake Latta
    Kieth Engen Wolfgang

    • Camille

      Just wonderful, thanks.
      I’d have bought a ticket in a thrice, especially to see and hear the Reverend. Perhaps he could have been obliged to take his shirt off?
      And just maybe, to add some real spice, Maxine and Hannah could be switched on off nights by Mesdames Tebaldi and Callas?

      While you are in the groove, would you terribly mind casting his “Uno sguardo dal ponte”, an opera I’ve always *wondered* about?

      Question: why did you pluralize the iguana????

      • armerjacquino

        Oh, View From The Bridge is in English, don’t we think?

        Eddie: Robert Merrill
        Beatrice: Eleanor Steber
        Catherine: Anna Moffo
        Rodolfo: Franco Corelli
        Marco: Mario del Monaco
        Alfieri: Giorgio Tozzi

        • Camille

          Great cast. I’ll drink to this one.

          I think he (Rossellini) wrote it in EYE-talian, if my faint and fleeting memory of picking up the score for about one minute over ten years ago is correct.

          Maybe Dorothy Kirsten and Eleanor Steber could both be singing Beas?

          Oh, that reminds me, the Bolcom opera. I didn’t see it but my husband did and doesn’t recall it very well. I’ll have to ask him about it once more.

          • armerjacquino

            Oh, I didn’t realise there was a real one! I’ve probably got the voice types all wrong.

          • Nerva Nelli

            The Rosellini version dates from 1961. I think the real casting is better, Armer! Petrella and Rossi-Lemeni-- and Kraus!! But I’d have used Carteri and Filacuridi as the young lovers…

            11 Marzo 1961, Sabato
            première nel Teatro dell’Opera di Roma di “Uno sguardo dal ponte”, dramma lirico in 2 atti di Renzo Rossellini, libretto del compositore (da Arthur Miller: “A View from the Bridge”, traduzione italiana di Gerardo Guerrieri), dirige Oliviero De Fabritiis, regia del compositore, scenografia di Piero Zuffi {soprani Clara Petrella (Beatrice) e Gianna Galli (Catherine), tenori Ruggero Bondino (Rodolfo), Luigi Infantino (Tony), Alfredo Kraus (Mike) e Nino Mazziotti (Louis), baritoni Giovanni Ciminelli (Marco) e Giuseppe Valdengo (avv.Alfieri), bassi Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Eddie Carbone) e Plinio Clabassi (1°agente)}

          • Camille

            Thanks, NN!!

            Be still my heart: Alfredo as Mike. Clara Petrella would have been a wonderful singing Bea as well, I would think.

            Wish there could be a recording hiding somewhere under dal ponte.

            Thanks again, AJ&NN. Boy, talk about very, very late verismo!

        • Nerva Nelli

          Royal Swedish Opera (1970)

          Martha BARBRO ERICSON
          George RAGNAR ULFUNG
          Honey BIRGIT NORDIN
          Nick HAKAN HAGEGARD

          • armerjacquino

            No Soderstrom?

          • Nerva Nelli

            I think Martha has to be a mezzo (or if a soprano someone like Varnay). Soederstroem at 43 too old for Honey in 1970.

            Follow up performance at Sadler’s Wells:

            JANET BAKER [I would love to hear her speak those lines!]
            ROBERT TEAR
            NORMA BURROWES
            THOMAS ALLEN

          • armerjacquino

            US Premiere, 1975:

            Martha: SHIRLEY VERRETT
            George: JAMES KING
            Honey: BARBARA HENDRICKS
            Nick: JAMES MORRIS

          • rapt

            No, no, Nick must be the tenor. So, in the nationalistic spirit, I’d suggest this for the premiere at the Palais Garnier:

            George: Jose Van Dam
            Martha: Regine Crespin
            Nick: Alain Vanzo
            Honey: Mady Mesple.

            (Sorry I don’t know how to do the diacritics!)

          • The_Kid

            I would have said “Angels in America”, the only ‘Shakespearean’ play of our times, but didn’t someone write an operatic version of that already?
            Anyway, i’m gonna go all retro and suggest:


            “Festa per il compleanno del caro amico Harold”

            (aka, The Boys in The Band)

            Original Cast: (1979)

            Ruggero Raimondi: Michael
            Siegfried Jerusalem: Alan
            Marilyn Horne : Harold (Trouser Role)
            James Bowman: Emory
            José Carreras: Donald
            Sam Ramey: Hank
            Rockwell Blake: Larry
            Cowboy will be a non-singing part, and will mark the on-stage appearance of a celebrity (a la Duchess of Krakenthorp). Richard Gere might appear on the opening night, followed by personal favorites such as the erstwhile Paris-Jacksons.

            Temporal inaccuracies, if any, should be pardoned! :)
            Reuben Greene: Bernard

          • The_Kid

            Sorry, forgot Bernard! Let me see….Willard White, perhaps?

    • armerjacquino



      Renata Tebaldi Elisabetta Proctor
      Maria Callas Abigaille
      Franco Corelli Giovanni Proctor
      Renata Scotto Maria Warren
      Ettore Bastianini Hale
      Nicola Zaccaria Danforth


      Maria Callas Bernarda
      Renata Tebaldi Adela
      Fedora Barbieri La Poncia
      Fiorenza Cossotto Martirio
      Eugenia Ratti Angustias
      Rosa Ponselle Maria Josefa
      Franco Corelli Voce di Pepe el Romano

  • oedipe

    Not that I want to join the club of “Canary Fancier Bashers”, but this ganging up of all-against-one bothers me, I’m sorry. It should at least be kept in mind that he is by no means the only one around here to loathe baroque music, countertenors, canaries and canary fanciers. Just a few days ago someone groaned about the “louche chicken queen Europublic” who likes these things… WP is not any worse, just more maladroit.

    • armerjacquino

      I agree that ganging-up is vile. But that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening here is that one poster is (deliberately?) bugging the hell out of a diverse and discrete set of individuals, one by one. Take a look at the last few intermission threads: the brave souls who have attempted to engage have ended up just as patronised and enraged as anyone else.

      And this has nothing to do with whether one likes baroque opera or not, and everything to do with WP’s endlessly expressed superiority complex.

      • Camille


    • Nerva Nelli

      Nerva Nelli, a longtime devotee of ad advocate for baroque music and countertenors, in fact said:

      “Jaroussky sang very well but monochromatically the two times I have heard him live. Have never admired the avian looks, but he seems to have inherited a kind of louche chicken queen Europublic of both (all) sexes from Jochen Kowalski and maybe the treble iteration of Max Emanuel Cencic. How his persona and popularity will hold up when he stops looking 15 should be interesting.”

      Obviously- I would think--I was talking about Jaroussky and a certain Continental youthcultism ( c.f. Lezhneva), and MOST CERTAINLY not about baroque music as a category.

    • You know? There is a difference between saying “Barroque music is not for me, I have never understood it and all those notes feel empty to me. I know some will disagree, but those are my feelings” and coming out and implying that those who like barroque music are somehow less than because they like it and then putting oneself on a pedestal as the model to follow (“Look at ME, I worship Palestrina and prokofief is in my short list, why cant you be more like ME”)

      One is expressing an opinion and realizing that there will be disagreement, the other is casting a judgment. One will lead to conversation, and some debate. The other will lead to a show of claws. Those who can not learn the difference will find themselves the object of unwanted attention.

      Just saying.

      • bluecabochon

        Like Armer, I’m not sure if our poster genuinely misunderstands or deliberately gives the appearance of misunderstanding much of what is posted here in response. Continually asking people “what they mean” when it’s obvious sometimes looks like simple loneliness and a desire to connect with people who “on paper” might be friends, albeit anonymous ones. How long has this been going on? Four months? Each week, essentially the same theme, the same begging for validation for his very narrow opinions, and same poignantly joyful responses to the few who actually find some of the statements valid (or not) and wish to give back, or challenge in a respectful, mature way.

        Lindoro, well put. :)

        I can sense this poster’s happiness when someone actually engages him on a topic of his devising, so painfully researched and composed, and imagine him waiting impatiently for LaCieca’s Sunday night entree, no matter how late that might be.

        I’m not sure what to think about this poster now, who behaves oddly and seems to invite responses of any nature, as long as he’s not being ignored.

        • oedipe

          I can sense this poster’s happiness when someone actually engages him on a topic of his devising, so painfully researched and composed, and imagine him waiting impatiently for LaCieca’s Sunday night entree, no matter how late that might be.

          I’m not sure what to think about this poster now, who behaves oddly and seems to invite responses of any nature, as long as he’s not being ignored.

          Maybe, as a by-product of watching Parsifal’s painstaking discovery of compassion, we too are learning something?

          • bluecabochon

            Well, I’m no saint, but despite the occasional drawing of an effete knife am a kind person, and Wagner has nothing to do with that!

          • oedipe

            My reference to Parsifal was just wishful thinking, since most people are neither kind, nor compassionate.
            But anyway, I think your analysis is right on the money.

          • louannd

            PUH-lease. BTW I am looking for feminist critiques on Parsifal that Tony Tommasini so sagely commented on in his review which as usual was as ambivalent as hell. (I have the same problem but nowhere near his credentials).

          • Batty Masetto

            Well Blue, honey, if you’re feeling strong enough, here’s one guy’s suggestion on how to cope:

          • bluecabochon

            “A boy with a shit haircut and no girlfriend” may just about sum things up. Maybe the most perfect Youtube response, ever…I must find out about this likable Colossus.

            Still chortling over louche chicken queen Europublic.

          • louannd

            @Batty -- There’s certainly controversy in this method:


        • Rory Williams

          I think you really nailed it, Blue. The Lonely Guy vibe has gotten really strong. But thanks to Batty’s introducing me to the Colossus, I know what to do! I gotta work up that accent ;)

  • oedipe


    Your reviews are one of the bestest things on Parterre, and that’s saying a lot.

    • phoenix

      I am in agreement with Œdipe. Whether or not one cares for the work or style, DeCaffarrelli -- like all the accomplished reviewers on this site -- gives a complete & insightful article.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        Finally having read this excellent article, I, too, offer thanks to DeCaffarrelli.

  • oedipe

    Should anyone happen to have an interest:

    There will be two performances of Alessandro, staged by Lucinda Childs, with Cencic, Vivica Genaux and Xavier Sabata, with the Armonia Atenea orchestra conducted by George Petrou, on May 31 and June 2, 2013 at the Opéra de Versailles.

  • The_Kid

    Oops, forgot Bernard! (Willard White)

  • toitoitoi

    I come to this site primarily to learn, and I’m never disappointed. The video gems, the expert reviews, even the occasional cat fight, are all educational in their respective ways. I am charmed to learn I’m a canary eater, or whatever it is. Thank you, DeCafferralli.

  • Perles75

    It is depressing that today there are still discussions about the “legitimacy” of baroque music (especially in opera). Grow up, people.